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Mars Space

Stephen Hawking Says He Is Convinced That Humans Need To Leave Earth (sciencealert.com) 391

Reader dryriver writes: Back in May, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking made yet another doomsday prediction. He said that humanity has 100 years left on Earth, which knocked 900 years off the prediction he made in November 2016, which had given humanity 1,000 years left. With his new estimate, Hawking suggested the only way to prolong humanity's existence is for us to find a new home, on another planet (alternative source). Speaking at the Starmus Festival in Trondheim, Norway on Tuesday, Hawking reiterated his point: "If humanity is to continue for another million years, our future lies in boldly going where no one else has gone before," he explained, according to the BBC. Specifically, Hawking said that we should aim for another Moon landing by 2020, and work to build a lunar base in the next 30 years -- projects that could help prepare us to send human beings to Mars by 2025. "We are running out of space and the only places to go to are other worlds. It is time to explore other solar systems. Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves. I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth," Hawking added.
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Stephen Hawking Says He Is Convinced That Humans Need To Leave Earth

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 22, 2017 @01:22PM (#54669241)
    Space is way, way worse. Unimaginably worse. Like, instant death worse.
    • by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @01:23PM (#54669251)

      We're in space. There is this thin layer of atmosphere confusing you about your location.

      • by timmee ( 653933 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @02:09PM (#54669645)

        Yeah, but we're in the only livable part of space that we know of. Every other part that we can get to, and all of the parts that we can't get to but observe, hold nothing but beautiful views and death. If we can't survive on the only livable spot in the universe that we know of (and only making it worse over time) what chance do we out there? Forget about terraforming Mars, we'll need to be terraforming Earth before too long.

        • There's places on Earth that once held nothing but beautiful views and death, and yet people live in those places now.
        • by Sumus Semper Una ( 4203225 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @03:29PM (#54670233)

          Yeah, but we're in the only livable part of space that we know of. Every other part that we can get to, and all of the parts that we can't get to but observe, hold nothing but beautiful views and death. If we can't survive on the only livable spot in the universe that we know of (and only making it worse over time) what chance do we out there? Forget about terraforming Mars, we'll need to be terraforming Earth before too long.

          There is a distinct advantage in attempting to terraform Mars before Earth: if it fails, then we didn't wipe out the human race.

          Also, there are livable parts of space that we created that are now orbiting the Earth in ways that were previously utterly devoid of all life. It's not unreasonable to think that we might be able to extend our ability to adapt to even more previously completely inhospitable and deadly environments. That's pretty much been the pattern for humanity for thousands of years.

        • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Thursday June 22, 2017 @03:55PM (#54670447) Homepage Journal

          Yeah, but we're in the only livable part of space that we know of.

          You are under the mistaken impression that unaided humans can live on Earth. This is not true. There is nowhere on this planet that I could drop you, sans technology (remember; clothing is technology) or any knowledge of the local environment, and reasonably expect you to still be alive in a few months. The only way humans can survive anywhere on Earth is through the application of specialized knowledge and tools.

          There are some regions where the tools and knowledge required are fairly minimal, where temperature swings are mild, food is easy to identify and obtain, and there aren't too many dangerous plants or animals. But much of the human population today lives in regions where the required tooling and knowledge for survival is quite extensive. For example where, I live no human could survive the winter without knowing how to obtain or make heavy protective clothing, a good insulated shelter, some method for generating external heat (e.g. fire), and extensive knowledge on the collection and preservation of food. Other places have steeper survival requirements yet.

          I'll readily grant that Mars, for example, requires more technology that any place on Earth where significant populations of people are found. It requires less, though, than is required to live in orbit, and we've had people doing that almost continuously for the last half century or so.

          The key thing to note is that all human survival, everywhere, including on Earth, is technology-dependent. Our evolution has lost us the physical characteristics and instinctual knowledge that our distant ancestor species had. We survive by the use of our big brains, but even with them we generally aren't capable of figuring out enough stuff, fast enough, to stay alive. Culturally-received knowledge is indispensable to us. That is true whether the knowledge in question is how to make crude fire-hardened spears or build space ships. It's just a matter of degree.

          Given that it's a matter of degree, there is no reason why we cannot survive and thrive just as well on other planets as we do here. Doing so will require creating lots of new knowledge and technology, certainly. That's a good thing. We should do it just for the opportunity to learn. Moving some of our eggs to another basket is another good reason to do it.

          • All human survival is also dependent on symbiotes. Big things like fellow animals, and the bacteria in our gut. The mites in our eyelids.

            One of the things that make things like "Star Trek" ridiculous is how little understanding there seems to be of this fact. When a "transporter beam" moves a human to some new location, what travels along and what stays behind?

            To travel to space we would need to transport big samples of the Earth's biomass with us. And we don't even really know what part we have to take, re

          • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

            by Bender0x7D1 ( 536254 )

            You contradict yourself. First you say:

            You are under the mistaken impression that unaided humans can live on Earth. This is not true. There is nowhere on this planet that I could drop you, sans technology (remember; clothing is technology) or any knowledge of the local environment, and reasonably expect you to still be alive in a few months. The only way humans can survive anywhere on Earth is through the application of specialized knowledge and tools.

            Then you almost immediately walk back your argument w

        • We've been terraforming Earth for a while already. The problem is, it's being done in a completely disorganized way and will probably end up making things worse.
      • We're in space. There is this thin layer of atmosphere confusing you about your location.

        But AC is safe because he's hiding under one of the turtles.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Sperbels ( 1008585 )
      Indeed. Working in a factory, fulfilling my 2.3 child obligation to society, and dying of cancer in my 40's due to the hazardous chemicals my employer exposed me to throughout my career sounds like a much more worthwhile goal.
      • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @02:23PM (#54669747) Homepage Journal
        OR you could work to improve things here on Earth, rather than dreaming about leaving it. You can't live anywhere else but Earth anyway.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by cayenne8 ( 626475 )

          OR you could work to improve things here on Earth, rather than dreaming about leaving it. You can't live anywhere else but Earth anyway.

          Well, I'll be long dead in 100 years, so, not terribly worried about it.

          I"m having fun, and enjoying my life and lifestyle on earth right now thank you.

        • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

          by Sperbels ( 1008585 )

          OR you could work to improve things here on Earth, rather than dreaming about leaving it.

          OR you could realize the futility of changing the will of billions of selfish humans and escape.

          • You can't "escape" from Earth. Biology and Physics dictates that. Guess you will need to live here with the "selfish" ones instead of running away.
          • OR you could realize the futility of changing the will of billions of selfish humans and escape.

            You should read The Population Bomb [wikipedia.org]. Paul Ehrlich, the author, believed as you do, and felt the future of humanity was hopeless. He laid out many scenarios for the future, from worst case (human extinction) to best case (massive die offs from famine in the 1980s followed by stabilization).

            None of his predictions came true. Instead, humanity's collective behavior and progress was far better than he, or the "educated" consensus believed. People are not as stupid or as selfish as you think they are. Despi

            • I am familiar with The Population Bomb. Why is this relevant? He's one dude who was wrong. Why is this a legitimate argument about anything?
        • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Thursday June 22, 2017 @03:59PM (#54670479) Homepage Journal

          OR you could work to improve things here on Earth, rather than dreaming about leaving it.

          Or we could do both.

          You can't live anywhere else but Earth anyway.

          This is both illogical and demonstrably false, since people have been living off of this planet for most of the last half century. All human life is technology-dependent. Many of the places lots of people live are unsurvivable without fairly extensive technology. Living on other planets, or in space, will require more and different technology, but there's nothing inherently impossible about it.

        • The odds of an event wiping out the entire population on this planet in a thousand years is not that small that you'd want to take the risk if you can help it. Would be nice if you could restore from a copy.

      • Respectfully, this is really bull. At least in the US. Life expectancy is great in the US unless you feed yourself garbage and you can easily get a job with any construction crew making a good living even with no education. We're talking 60-90k a year and you can retire in 20 years which is really pretty decent most areas. Other than construction there is plumbing, electrical work etc. Life is good in the US. It is only entitled youngsters that don't really want to work for a living that have a proble
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Construction workers do not make 60-99k a year. Atleast not starting out with no education.

          How do I know? My nephew didn't graduate high school, he's now in construction. He makes $15 an hour.

          • Apparently there are a lot of states where workers make quite a bit less. I always assume being in rural Kentucky with very low cost of living that other areas pay better. I'm not sure how accurate this is because I have several friends and a brother in law that do quite a bit better than this but here is a map for Iron workers for instance that includes all states link [bls.gov]
    • Space may be worse, but it's not space that will kill us. There are no other humans in space. Over half of the population are essentially living like cavemen; eventually we'll set off a major nuclear conflict or some other catastrophe.

      Ark-B jokes aside, that's what Hawking is getting at.

      Eventually we'll do ourselves in here; living someplace else too means we can can come back when everything stops glowing.

      That's what Hawking is getting at.

      • Yes. Space WILL kill you. You are naive and watch too much Scifi.
      • Eventually we'll do ourselves in here; living someplace else too means we can can come back when everything stops glowing.

        That makes no sense. If there is a nuclear war here, it would be way way way cheaper to survive in a fallout shelter with a HEPA filter for ventilation than to go to Mars. Everything you need to survive, including oxygen, clean water, food, warmth, electrical power, would be WAY harder to obtain on Mars. It would even be more radioactive, since there is no magnetic field. There would be zero advantages to going there.

    • Actually, going underwater after a few feet is infinitely more dangerous than space.

  • It's so sad.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Holi ( 250190 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @01:23PM (#54669249)
    It's so sad when scientists get old and turn in to crackpots.
    • Re:It's so sad.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JudgeFurious ( 455868 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @01:40PM (#54669389)
      Exactly! I realize that he was (maybe still is on some level) absolutely brilliant but in his own way he's doing the same thing my Uncle Rudy is doing at that age. Slowly losing all sense of reality and proportion. Unfortunate but mostly inevitable.
      • Or maybe he's just saying provocative things to generate discussion.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        He's trying to establish his immortality. Science is his god, and his faith is in himself. IF we manage to get off planet, he'll be hailed as a great visionary who made it all possible (not really), while if we fail, and mankind destroys itself, there will be nobody to remember who Stephen Hawking was, and his whole life would be in vain.

        Our Mortality makes us do irrational things, because as inevitable as it is, it is something we will never get comfortable with.

    • by atheos ( 192468 )
      yup, this is the Scientific equivalency to the Heavens Gate exodus plan.
    • Linus Pauling was a certified genius, and basically created the field of molecular biology.

      He was also a complete crank who thought Vitamin C could cure any disease, people with genetic defects should be branded so people wouldn't mate with them, and basically shilled for the Soviet Union for decades.

    • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

      It's so sad when scientists get old and turn in to crackpots.

      As the Earth's population continues to increase exponentially what happens? I'm sure the answer is PROFIT! Yeah...

      • Probably won't happen. Ever-increasing population used to be a real concern, but demographics are trending differently now. The story is the same in country after country, and should be true on a global scale too: There is a huge population explosion following industrialisation due to reliable food, medicine, clean water, etc. People stop dying. But eventually the birth rate falls as well, due to the progression of other social factors that follow industrialisation - the need for longer periods in education

      • Profit from sweet delicious Soylent Green. The drink of the people, for the people.
  • The earth has been pummeled with catastrophic meteor strikes for billions of years.

  • Guess he needs to get started on figuring out FTL drive. Because even the worst place on earth is far better than Mars.

    • We're not really going to find any place significantly better than a few of locations in the Solar System. Giving a planet a breathable atmosphere and letting that atmosphere stay will upset its heat budget so much the current values hardly matter. Not in comparison in what we can do by making that atmosphere more opaque or more greenhousey.

      And we don't need FTL: if you want to get there in the flesh, I guess it's 50-100 years before we get a breakthrough that defeats aging. We'll then see a lot of healt

      • SO all we need is give a planet an atmosphere, defeat aging and develop hard AI. Meanwhile, on planet Earth, we have global warming, we can barely develop software that is reliable and haven't cured the common cold. But yeah, I'm sure some breakthrough is coming real soon now!
  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @01:29PM (#54669297)

    The problem is NOT that we don't have room -- the problem is that we as a species are so stupid, short-sighted, and greedy-as-fuck to figure out a way to make room for everyone.

    If we would spend less time focused on killing one over trivial shit such as oil and religion and more on putting our petty differences aside we sure as hell could easily support 30+ billion on this planet.

    I'll be REAL interesting to hear his perspective in ~2025 after First Contact happens.

    • Yeah, when you start comparing earth to every other place we know of, earth looks pretty darn good. Even if things go hellishly wrong horribly fast, it will almost certainly still be a more habitable place than Mars.
    • The problem is NOT that we don't have room -- the problem is that we as a species are so stupid, short-sighted, and greedy-as-fuck to figure out a way to make room for everyone.

      So then, we don't actually have room for 36 billion people...for the reasons I just quoted, right?

    • The problem is NOT that we don't have room...

      There's plenty of room. The earth has a population density of 56 people per km^2. You could move the entire population to Russia, and you'd have a pop. density of 439/km^2. That would rank 27th on the current population density chart [wikipedia.org]. Change that to Africa, and it would be 247/km^2, or 56th on the current chart, right above Pakistan. Granted, there are vast areas of Russia & Africa that are uninhabitable, but these are just for illustration purposes.

    • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Thursday June 22, 2017 @04:10PM (#54670581) Homepage Journal

      If we would spend less time focused on killing one over trivial shit such as oil and religion and more on putting our petty differences aside we sure as hell could easily support 30+ billion on this planet.

      We'll never need to do that. The global birth rate (babies per year) has already peaked and has been declining steadily for a while; it looks like global population will peak at 10B and then start falling. But in any case overpopulation isn't the only issue (and space travel wouldn't be a solution for it if it were the problem). The motivation for getting off of Earth is that having the entire species on one planet means that if something Really Bad happens to this planet, we're gone.

      And something Really Bad will happen. Whether it's a chain of supervolcano explosions, a mega meteor, a world war with planet-shattering doomsday weapons or out of control bioweapons, or gray goo, something will happen. Maybe we can figure out how to address each of the existential risks, eventually, but there's no way of knowing if we'll do it soon enough.

      To put it in a nutshell: We have no disaster recovery strategy. We need an offsite backup of our species.

      Plus, we'll learn one hell of a lot in the process of trying to colonize another planet. It's worth doing just for that reason.

  • Human colonies on non-habitable planets would only last a little longer than the people on the ISS would without support from Earth - thanks to their greater amount of storage space. Things would turn ugly real fast after the second or third missed resupply shipment.

    Now obviously there are no habitable planets in the solar system, so to get to one, we'll either need to crack physics wide open and invent FTL travel, or gamble all our resources on a generation ship that will become a debris field sprinkled wi

    • by XXongo ( 3986865 )

      Human colonies on non-habitable planets would only last a little longer than the people on the ISS would without support from Earth

      Well, that's present technology. Not even present technology-- the Space Station's technology is what was available when it was being designed in the mid 1990s.

      If you're saying "we'll need to considerably improve our technology to be able to survive for long times on other planets"-- yep, no objection there.

    • For the first few decades, certainly. You don't build a self-sustaining colony overnight. There's no physical reason it can't be done, and most of the technology already exists - the real barrier is financial. It would be, quite possibly, the single most expensive endeavour in the history of mankind.

      Mars is 'habitable' for a loose enough definition - because it has resources. There are things to mine. Raw materials to harvest and refine. Humans would have to do the thing that they do best in hostile environ

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Option 3: Forget the planets. Work on self-sustaining space stations. Start by working out how to make an arctic colony self sustaining.

  • by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @01:34PM (#54669331)

    Yes, any terrestrial species that wants its descendants to survive more than another 700 million years or so must expand its territory beyond Earth orbit before that time has passed and the Sun cooks the Earth dry.

    Any species that wants its descendants to survive any arbitrary amount of time less that that still has to work on the same issue in case of asteroid strike or other major catastrophe that could happen somewhere in the next five minutes to 700 million years.

    So yes, we ought to be working on how to survive and thrive in space with just an energy gradient and a source of raw materials to keep us going.

    However, Hawking also beaks off about aliens wanting to invade and kill/enslave us, so however good he may be at figuring out the math of black holes, he's not so great at interstellar economics. Sometimes he talks about how we're all going to die in a nuclear holocaust next Thursday, just for variety.

    Personally, I think he likes staying in the public eye and nobody's talking about A Brief History of Time any more.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Any species that wants its descendants to survive any arbitrary amount of time less that that still has to work on the same issue in case of asteroid strike or other major catastrophe that could happen somewhere in the next five minutes to 700 million years.

      Nothing has happened in Earth's history that would make it a worse place for humans than anywhere else in the solar system. For example, whatever did actually kill off the dinosaurs can't be worse than trying to survive on Mars.

      As for another solar system? Not likely. I think the probable explanation for the Fermi Paradox is distance, and there is just no way to get around it.

    • Why should we be so concerned about the species surviving?
      I mean the 'species' doesn't want anything only individuals.
      No one currently living affected if the species goes extinct any time after the next 150 years.
      I mean I guess a person could want you great great great grandchildren to survive, but really what are they to you other then other people possible future people who may or may not ever exists.

  • by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @01:34PM (#54669337)

    Hawkings is obviously a very intelligent man who has made some very important contributions.

    He's also right, we should be trying to establish outposts outside of earth; but his claiming we have 100 years left is alarmist and unscientific.

    We don't know when the earth might collide with a giant asteroid or if nuclear war might erupt and wipeout mankind. We certainly couldn't say it will happen within 100 years with any scientific certainty.

    Even with the worst case global warming, the earth will still be more hospitable than any body in the universe outside of earth.

    Yes, we should be trying hard to find alternative places to settle, but let's not go nutso and alarmist about this and make claims that no one can accurately back up.

  • While it is likely bad for the long term effects of the environment, we are not running out of space. The best scientific minds 130 years ago thought today's population was impossible, and they were right (using 1890s tech). More people means more geniuses who can solve problems. We will likely achieve fusion within 50 years, and have cheap automation driven by weak AI. In the long term nothing is stopping artificial farms from reaching a half mile depth around the globe, we stack nearly 30k people per
    • While it is likely bad for the long term effects of the environment, we are not running out of space. The best scientific minds 130 years ago thought today's population was impossible, and they were right (using 1890s tech). More people means more geniuses who can solve problems. We will likely achieve fusion within 50 years, and have cheap automation driven by weak AI. In the long term nothing is stopping artificial farms from reaching a half mile depth around the globe, we stack nearly 30k people per square mile in cities already and just the land mass of earth has roughly 200 million sq miles. That's 6 trillion people considering we can up the current city density through nearly unlimited energy and cheap power. Further we could start using the oceans too, floating cities are already being planned. While I am in favor of expanding humanity, we need to realize that there is plenty of room right now if we take into account increases in technology. Within 500 years we may see the planet support over one trillion people, it seems likely to me at least.

      I wouldn't want to live on this planet with 999,999,999,999 other people.

      • by c ( 8461 )

        Within 500 years we may see the planet support over one trillion people, it seems likely to me at least.

        I wouldn't want to live on this planet with 999,999,999,999 other people.

        The odds are pretty good that you'll be dead long before we reach that point.

    • Within 500 years we may see the planet support over one trillion people, it seems likely to me at least.

      I doubt it. Our global birth rate is already declining, both in relative and absolute terms. This isn't because of insufficient resources. Indeed birth rate is strongly negatively correlated with wealth. Even if the birth rate were to suddenly freeze at its current level (stop the decline), we'll still peak at just over 10B people, barring significant life extension.

      I think the only way we'll ever see even double our current population is if we eventually conquer death, and I'm not sure even that would do

  • by moehoward ( 668736 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @01:39PM (#54669375)

    Why do we hype anything someone famous has to say? Would Slashdot run the story if Justin Bieber said the same thing? Why not? It would be exactly as meaningful. Unless Hawking thinks that a black hole is sneaking up on us, he is out of his league.

    • by timmee ( 653933 )

      Could we just send Justin Bieber to Mars? That might help the situation here on Earth a bit.

  • "Earth, man. What a shithole."
  • Just stop making all these crazy predictions. You don't know, seriously, you cannot know any of these things.

    I applaud your theoretical work on astrophysics and agree that it's ground breaking work, but stop with the rest of this stuff. You are just soiling your name, diminishing your reputation with this garbage. I know you face your forthcoming mortality and it must be hard to realize that it will very soon be over for you, but these recent PR ploys are only going to damage your memory. Please stop. I

  • by BinBoy ( 164798 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @01:42PM (#54669409) Homepage

    Stephen Hawking, the ultimate prepper.

  • One planet among many. Why should humanity stay just here?

  • If we had fusion power, we could economically grow crops in vertical farms. If we did this, then we could house many times the whole planet’s population JUST along the coastlines in tall buildings and give every person ample personal space.

    Even if we didn’t do that, there’s plenty of uninhabited space on earth that we could utilize as long as we brought water in and improved farming efficiency.

    While I agree that we’re wrecking our environment, any other place in the solar system wil

  • Spend the few years you still have left on what you are good at: physics.

  • by s1d3track3D ( 1504503 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @02:20PM (#54669719)

    I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth - Hawking

    I completely agree! - Earth

  • by sciengin ( 4278027 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @03:09PM (#54670073)

    What the hell would he know about leaving earth, dude cannot even leave his wheelchair.

    Joke aside: This, like his rant about the dangers of AI when no general AI is even being developed, shows that brilliant people can be utter morons as soon as they leave their areas of expertise.

  • by golodh ( 893453 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @03:23PM (#54670177)
    Much as I respect prof. Hawking, I think he's making a serious mistake here.

    Where he thinks that settling other planets will increase mankind's chances of survival, I believe they will lead to war. Interplanetary war that will see planets being nuked or targeted with swarms of asteroids.

    There doesn't have to be a reason, we'll find one. And if we can't find one, we'll manufacture one.

    A new religion. Economics. A new way of running society. Differences in life expectancy. Mutations caused by the environment. Genetic engineering leading to a superior strain of humanity.

    Leave it to us. We'll find a reason. We always do. Together on o planet we need to show some restraint, 'cause we're on the same planet. Throw that out and why not bomb a world?

  • Who get to choose who stays and who goes? Is it voluntary or involuntary?

  • Why bother? (Score:2, Insightful)

    No seriously. If you believe in God then I suppose there is an argument for exploring creation, but it isn't all the strong because it isn't and doesn't seem to be very practical in the near future.

    If you don't believe in God, like Hawkings, what logical reason can you possible give to have any concern about the survival of the species? Your personal survival or happiness is not going to be affected by anything so far term and when you are dead it won't make the slightest difference.

    I guess maybe to make y

  • by shoor ( 33382 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @03:53PM (#54670437)

    We stay here and...? A thousand years from now we're just here? A million years?

    Personally, I think if we do go in to space in a big way, it will be to live in space habitats with artificial gravity and so on, though probably mining raw materials from asteroids or the Moon to build them.

    Things change no matter what. We may become transhuman cyborgs, or we may be replaced by AI's (not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion, the AI's could be considered our children and could be the best part of us, or it could turn out a lot grimmer.)

    We may just go extinct. Global warming (our fault) may turn earth into another Venus, in which case we've not just driven ourselves extinct but all life on earth.

    If we continue to be more or less conventionally human, with our meatsuits, and if the population continues to grow, it will be an explosion. Imagine layers of population out from the earth, out from the solar system. And the population growing in each of those layers. People would have to keep moving outward. And the people in the inner layers who wanted to move out would either have to skip over the layers outwards from them to find fresh empty space, or push the people in those layers out so they could take their place. I just don't believe it could come to that. Assuming the more dismal scenarios like extinction don't happen first, something, and probably something literally unimaginable to us 21st century humans, will happen before it comes to that.

  • I'm going to go out on a limb and say that there's more habitable space on the roof of my apartment building than in the whole rest of the solar-system off-earth.

    The urge to quit Earth is the urge to dump our problems without fixing them. This will not help us survive in more hostile environments. If we send a tiny group of people, or even somehow hundreds or thousands, they will take the lessons our species learned on Earth. Long after a few brave adventurers have fallen to the same challenges we face here

  • by sbaker ( 47485 ) on Thursday June 22, 2017 @04:38PM (#54670735) Homepage

    We know for sure that the only other halfway usable planet that we can possibly ever reach is Mars. Elon Musk claims he can get us there soon and cheaply - and I believe him. BUT he didn't address how we'd be able to live there after his re-usable spacecraft drops off 100 people and 450 tonnes of cargo.

    1) We have no idea of the health risks of 1/3rd g gravity - we know zero g is very unhealthy. That's all we know.
    2) On a 2700 calorie/day diet, with a reasonable mix of nutrients - you need one acre of farmland per person to keep them fed...so 100 acres of farmland per 100 person "team".
    3) On Mars, it's too cold for crops to grow. Mean temps of -55 C are what you get - plants don't grow below +5 degC.
    4) To heat one acre of land to +5 degC will require 1.7MWatts of power - and 170MW of solar power requires about 3.7 acres of solar panels - weighing 10kg per sq.meter. To keep ourselves warm and with lights, vehicles, etc will add another 2 to 3 acres of solar panels. Crunch the numbers and roughly 250 tonnes out of our 450- tonne cargo allowance will be Solar panels. How many tonnes does it take to build 100 acres of well insulated, pressurized, heated greenhouses? Probably another 100 tonnes. That leaves just 1 tonne per person for housing, recycling, water mining, vehicles, space suits, etc.
    5) There isn't enough nitrogen in Mars soil to grow plants (one part per 1000 or so is what we've seen in rover sampling). So we'll either need around 6 tonnes of fertilizer...and some means to very efficiently recycle nitrogen....or a way to mine about 6,000 tonnes of Martial soil and heat it enough to release it's nitrogen. NASA deems nitrogen too impractical to recycle aboard the ISS - so we know this ain't gonna be easy.
    6) Setting up all of those acres of greenhouses and solar panels will take a long time - and the plants will take many months to produce crops. Realistically, we're going to need a year's worth of food...that's another 100 tonnes.

    So for sure, there isn't enough cargo capacity in Elon's otherwise excellent plan. So instead of getting people there for $200,000 per person - it's going to be more like twice that...just for the cargo. At $400,000 per ticket - vastly fewer people can go there.

    The only way out of this is to make MUCH lighter solar panels...and to come up with ways to make an acre of greenhouse that weighs a LOT less than a ton!

    So, with what we currently know - I think a self-sustaining Mars colony is a bust...sadly.

    If we can't get Mars up and going like that - we're talking slow, painful terraforming - bioengineered greenhous-gas-producing bacteria to warm the planet - then bioengineered algae to sit in those new lakes and make oxygen - and the problem with THAT is finding someone to pay for a project that won't produce results for 1000 years. No project in all of human history has taken more than a couple of human lifetimes (I'm thinking of the great Cathedrals of Europe and arguably, the Pyramids)...in both cases each generation who worked on them believed they'd get their reward in heaven...so it wasn't a total waste for them.

    But between taxpayers and government - NOBODY will pay for a trillion dollar, 1000 year project.

    So - we're not going to colonize Mars, there is no place else in the solar system that's even as good at that - and we stand ZERO chance of making it outside the solar system (see funding issues, above).

    We'd better make the best of what we've got. Ways out are to become longer lived so that a 1000 year project doesn't seem quite so bad - or scan our brains into computers and shoot computers out into space where we can all be immortal.

  • Exploring new places and developing whatever tech it takes to survive there is worthwhile because each new colony represents a new place for us to put our eggs in, not because there was ever any instance of 'everyone has to move there'. Every group of people living in a new place, be it Massachusetts or McMurdo Bay or Mars, gets to discover new things and organize in potentially interesting new ways. If a colony becomes self-sustaining, it can develop brainpower that influences the older world, as in Ben Franklin being ambassador to France.

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!

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